Plant Polyphenols: Nature’s Anti-Aging Secret
Considering the alternative, most of us want to get as old as we possibly can; we just don't want to look like it. While we can't stop the march of time, there are simple things we can do to help us look younger and feel better as we flip over our calendars from year to year. The best part is, they are easy, cheap, and natural, too.
The 16th-century Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, is fabled to have combed the island of Bimini off the Florida coast in search of the Fountain of Youth, a mythical, magical spring said to be able to turn back time and 'turn men into boys.' Yet all he really needed was to find a cherry tree, some tea leaves, a blueberry patch and maybe the odd cactus. Here's why.
Plant polyphenols and why we need them
Polyphenols are naturally-occurring plant compounds that protect plants from the harmful consequences of the thousands of biochemical reactions that occur 24 hours a day. These biochemical reactions are known as oxidations, because they use oxygen as a reactant. They occur in our own bodies as well as in plants.
Oxidations can produce highly reactive compounds called free radicals. These nasty, high-energy little molecules are missing an electron, which they happily snatch from other molecules, such as DNA, residing in our own healthy cells. This caues a form of cellular damage known as oxidative stress. Free radicals have been implicated in cancer, aging, and inflammation.
Fortunately, living organisms have inbuilt DNA repair mechanisms to help us recover from the ravages of oxidative stress. Unfortunately, these mechanisms can easily become overwhelmed. Stress, unhealthy diets, and environmental toxins all increase oxidative stress. That's when we turn to plants to help us boost our protection.
Types of polyphenols
Polyphenols are among 500 phytochemicals (plant-derived chemicals) that have been identified to date. The ones that help mop up free radicals produced in oxidative reactions are collectively known as antioxidants.
There are four categories of polyphenols: lignans, stilbenes, phenolic acids, and flavonoids1. Polyphenols tend to congregate in the skins of fruits and vegetables. They are highly pigmented, giving fruits and veggies their distinctive colors. Therefore, your best strategy for eating plenty of polyphenols is to choose a colorful variety of produce, and to scrub them, not peel.
Lignans are phytoestrogens, meaning they mimic the action of natural estrogen in the body. Lignans have been found to correlate positively with a reduced risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and some types of cancer, specifically that of the breast, prostate, and ovaries2. Good dietary sources of lignans also tend to be high in fiber, which itself is useful for fighting certain types of cancer and improving general health and wellbeing. You can find lignans in flax seeds, cashew nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds.
The stilbene, resveratrol, is increasing in popularity. Found in dark-skinned fruits such as cherries, cranberries, grapes, and blueberries, resveratrol is also found in onions, peanuts, chocolate, and other dietary sources. Because red wine is made from crushed grapes and people who drink moderate amounts of red wine seem to have a lower risk of heart disease, resveratrol is thought to be responsible for these effects, but there needs to be more research to confirm this. Resveratrol does, however, seem to act as an antioxidant. It also appears to boost the immune system and improve endurance and reduce muscle fatigue by increasing the number of energy-producing mitochondria in muscle cells3. Resveratrol can also reduce the absorption of sugar by the intestine and inhibit the activity of free fatty acids.
Although there are more than 10,000 different flavonoids, only a handful have been closely studied. Flavonoids serve plants by providing protection against the sun's harmful UV rays, free radicals, viruses, and bacteria. They also regulate gene expression and influence the action of certain enzymes. They do the same things in humans and, if taken as a regular part of the diet, they have been implicated in a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and other chronic conditions.
You can boost your antioxidant intake with NATURELO Raw Greens Powder, made with a rich variety of whole food greens and herbal extracts.